LILY CHU has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. She is a Certified Medical Technologist and a Counseling Psychologist as well. She has taught at Lake Superior State University and New Mexico State University for a total of 30 years. Besides university teaching, research, and administration, she has served in many developing countries as a consultant. Chinese creative writing has been an unexpected joy and accomplishment in her life. She has published six books in Chinese and has two more books forthcoming. While working as a professor, Lily Chu published approximately forty res
earch articles and professional monograms in English. Recently, she has been a regular contributing author to an English magazine, Friends of We Chinese in America, which features essays and fiction. She will be participating in the “14th International Conference on the Short Story in English.” Her short story, “Fairy Mother”, will be included in their Short Story Anthology. Lily Chu was the Director of the National Education Association Grant on “Minorities and Women in Educational Research.” She is the President of the San Diego Chinese Writers’ Association and will be the President of Overseas Chinese Women Writers’ Association in 2016.
Read a section from Lily Chu’s story:
by Lily Chu
I knew almost nothing about it, except that it originally came from Pakistan. I didn’t know its shape and size, its likes and dislikes, or whether it ever had any fears or dreams—an enigma, indeed, it seemed.
Well, let us start from the very beginning—in Pakistan.
The contract we signed in order to work for the Asian Bank in Pakistan contained a shipment clause which stated that we were entitled to a three-and-a-half ton cargo space for furniture and personal effects. To both of us who were used to traveling light, this seemed to be an unnecessary waste.
We enjoyed ethnic colors and flavors wherever we went, and would prefer to use native arts and crafts for our house decorations if we were to live in that country. We really could not think of any furniture and personal effects that we could not live without. Why did we have to incur such exorbitant costs, although not from our pocket, in order to ship our things across the ocean? We therefore used this allowance for all the academic books we could collect, and then donated them to a Pakistani university in Islamabad upon our arrival. One year later, our work was done and we were ready to return to the States. We once again found this three-and-half ton of shipping allotment waiting for us. By this time, we had purchased several intricately hand-made Pakistani carpets, which were beautiful beyond compare. Of course, we had to ship them home with us. Since these carpets were not enough to fill up the cargo space, we wanted to think of something else to include. One day, we happened upon a marble shop at the local market. There were marble slabs of various colors, from green to white, and red to black, all with interesting grains and patterns, and we quickly lost our heads right then and there. Before we knew what we were doing, we became the new owners of twelve boxes of pink marble that came from the quarry in Quetta, a place in Baluchistan, south of the Afghan border. Now, we thought, since we were crazy enough to buy these heavy boxes of marble to ship across the globe, we might as well go all the way and get some wood which we had always coveted.
The market was a bustling place filled with loud noises, honking cars, crowds of people, and small shops on both sides of the alley with goods spilled out onto the pavement. It was distinctly lacking women; only a few figures covered with black burqas from head to toe floated in and out of the market like ghosts. Not far from the marble shop in the market stood a wood shop. The stall was dark and small, with a few wood planks of different lengths leaning against the wall. The wood wallah (seller), an old man who wore a turban on his head and had an impressive big beard, told us that he could order any type of wood for us, as his warehouse was really the forest in the faraway mountains. He became visibly frustrated with us and thought we were crazy because we wanted to buy wood, but wouldn’t allow him to order a tree from the forest to be cut down. He thought for a long time, during which we drank obligatory tea and exchanged obligatory pleasantries, and the old man told us about this ancient Shisham tree. The log from this tree had been dried under the sun in the village for quite some time now; however, nobody wanted to buy it because a part of it showed signs of wood borer infestation. He told us that Shisham was a slow growing rosewood tree from northern India and Pakistan and its hard, dense, red hued wood had been highly treasured for fine furniture making throughout the centuries. If we would like to buy it, this wallah said, he could order it to be cut into thick planks.
However, he carefully added, as an ethical and reputable wallah would, that he could not guarantee that the planks would be completely free from wood borers, even though the log had been dried for a long time now and would be treated with insecticide before it was sold to us. If we shipped these planks all the way to the States and found borers in them, that would be regrettable.
We thought this wallah was so unusually honest that it was truly remarkable. We did not really mind if the wood we bought had been eaten by some borers. Now, with his words of caution, we began to worry if the borers we inadvertently transported into the States would eat up our national forests and lead to a major environmental disaster.
Lily Chu will be participating in the 14th International Conference on the Short Story in English.